[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Thursday reiterated the need for comprehensive immigration reform [statement] and called on members of Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass immigration legislation. Obama noted the role of immigrants throughout US history and indicated that immigrants must continue to play a role as the country grows and develops. He acknowledged the continuing difficulty with securing the border but cited efforts made by the administration to improve enforcement of current laws, including increased numbers of enforcement agents. He also acknowledged the frustration that has led states, like Arizona, to enact their own immigration laws [JURIST news archive]. Obama called these laws “ill conceived” and “divisive” and indicated that they are unenforceable. He stated that reform should include holding businesses responsible for hiring and exploiting undocumented workers, a path to citizenship for people living in the US illegally and a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Obama endorsed the DREAM act [materials], which would allow students who graduate from US high schools, but are not US citizens, to gain citizenship by completing a college degree or serving two years in the US military. He also stressed the need for bipartisanship in order to accomplish immigration reform, stating:
I’m ready to move forward; the majority of Democrats are ready to move forward; and I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward. But the fact is, without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem. Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality. The only way to reduce the risk that this effort will again falter because of politics is if members of both parties are willing to take responsibility for solving this problem once and for all.
Opponents of the plan to grant amnesty to some illegal immigrants contend that it would only encourage further illegal migration [NYT report]. It is unclear whether Congress will have the political will to address immigration reform in an election year.
Arizona’s new immigration law [SB 1070], which has been seen as an impetus for the renewed immigration debate, has been widely criticized in regard to the law’s constitutionality and alleged “legalization” of racial profiling. Last month, the Mexican government filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF] with the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] asking that the law be declared unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Also last month, the city of Tucson, Arizona joined a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the state’s new immigration law arguing that it law violates the Commerce Clause and Fourth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the US Constitution [text], in addition to federal immigration law, through which the federal government has “fully occupied” the field of immigration control. The Obama administration, though supporting immigration reform, has sharply criticized the law [JURIST report], calling it “misguided” and expressing concern that it could be applied in a discriminatory fashion. These criticisms are shared by Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website, Spanish] who called the law a “violation of human rights” [JURIST report]. In May, a group of UN experts found that the law could violate international standards [JURIST report] that are binding on the US.